Aikman Efficiency Ratings: New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys


The Dallas Cowboys defense cracked the Top 10 in the Aikman Efficiency Ratings after they pushed the defending champion Seattle Seahawks around Centurylink Field on Sunday. Those same ratings gave a narrow edge to the Seahawks over the Cowboys in Week 6. For all their relevance, stats have a hard time quantifying want-to.

But still we break them down. They’re not everything, but they’re interesting. And Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has long used the Aikman Efficiency Ratings as a tool to measure the prowess of the defenses he’s coached. Here he is talking about it recently.

So today The Landry Hat continues its series of breaking down the AER readings for the Cowboys and their opponents each week. This week the Cowboys host the up-and-down New York Giants in the first division game of the year.

First, here is a brief definition of the AERs direct from the site. This measurement was first introduced to the sporting world by Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman back in 2006:

"“The goal… was to create a system that measured factors related to winning without becoming subjective or too intricate.  And so in 1996, the Aikman Ratings came to be – a measurement of seven key, but easily obtained, statistical measurements (yards per rush, yards per pass play, turnovers per game, first downs per game, third-down percentage, points per game (unit on field) and points per red zone possession) combined and expressed in one simple number.”"

Let’s start by looking at how the Cowboys have progressed in the rating throughout the season. The AERs measure offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency as two separate numbers, then add the numbers together to get a team’s overall rating. The fact that no one saw this coming, particularly after Week 1, makes a graph like this all the sweeter:

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The Giants have been all over the map so far this season. They’ve ranked as low as No. 31 following their 25-14 Week 2 loss at home to the Arizona Cardinals; they’ve soared as high as No. 9 after beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-20 in Week 5 for their third straight win. Here’s how they compare to the Cowboys after six weeks:

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The cumulative data says these Cowboys are a clearly superior team, but how does each crucial stat break out individually? Remember, this rating is combination of seven different statistics. How they’re weighted is proprietary, so we can’t know which stats the Aikman team believes are most important. But we can see where each team ranks in those categories among other NFL teams. We’ll start with the offense:

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The Cowboys are a Top 5 team in four of the five categories, including leading the league in the all-important third-down efficiency rating. The Giants are average to below-average in six of seven categories. The teams are about even in turnovers per game. The Cowboys have a fumbling problem; the Giants have Eli Manning.

Now for the defense:

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The Cowboys carry Points Per Game, First Downs, and Yards Per Pass Attempt, but the Giants are an elite Top-5 squad in both Red Zone Efficiency and Third-Down Efficiency. In fact, the Giants are much stouter than the Seahawks were in both those categories, and those categories win games. This will be another good test for a Cowboys offense that has bested every competitor its faced yet.

Of course, one thing the AERs do not take into consideration is strength of schedule. The Giants look like a tough defensive unit, but how tough were the offenses they’ve faced? Here are the AER offensive rankings for each team the Cowboys and Giants have played so far this season:

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Ah, yes. The Giants defense has yet to play even a Top 10 offense this season. On average the offenses they’ve played rank 21st in the league. The Cowboys have faced two Top 10 units, including the No. 1-ranked New Orleans Saints, who they held to just 17 points in an epic exorcism of a beat-down that is still saved on my DVR.

How about the offenses – what kind of defenses have each of these teams played?

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Looks like the Giants offense has had a tougher road so far, having managed just 28 total points in three losses to the 1st, 12th and 13th ranked defenses by AER. And they went off for 105 points in dusting the 3rd, 21st and 30th ranked units in their three wins. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Eli indeed.

Overall the Aikman Efficiency Ratings say about what you would expect them to say, that the Cowboys are going to beat up the Giants for their sixth straight win.

Still, injuries and turnovers will have their say as they always do. And the Seahawks were the winners on paper before kickoff last Sunday. So the Cowboys still have to take the field and get it done. We’ll see if their head coach has them breathing fire, or if they’ve spent a week smelling the roses after a great road win.